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Israel's High Court Gives State 90 Days to Explain Foot-dragging Over Unrecognized Arab Town

Administrative ping-pong keeps residents of Dahmash, an unrecognized village in central Israel, in legal limbo.

The High Court of Justice has given the state 90 days to explain why the legal status of an unrecognized Arab village in central Israel has not been settled, either by official recognition or by annexation to a nearby community.
Dahmash, located between Lod and Ramle, has a population of around 800 and is part of the Emek Lod Regional Council. Most of the village’s land was given by the authorities to its residents, who were moved there from other villages after the state was founded. The remainder was extended to them with a 50-year lease.
In recent years residents have faced fines and demolition orders for building without a permit, since construction permits cannot be issued for communities lacking a master plan. Residents began to draw up draft plans, but the various zoning boards rejected them on the grounds that approval would constitute the establishment of a new town, which only the national government is authorized to approve.
In 2013 a committee established by the Interior Ministry rejected a proposal from the Emek Lod Regional Council to annex Dahmash to Lod, leaving the village in the regional council but with no legal status. That same year the residents petitioned the High Court of Justice, demanding that the cabinet debate their demand that Dahmash be declared an independent community.
At a hearing in March 2015, the court asked the state to reconsider the possibility of annexing the village to Lod, but over the 16 ensuing months, the state reported several times to the court that no decision had been made.
In its most recent update, it emerged that the interior minister, who was asked to decide on the matter, passed the decision to the Prime Minister’s Office, which tossed it back to the minister, indicating that at least some of the delay is the result of a dispute over who has the authority to make the decision.
Another factor stems from the refusal of other local governments to accept responsibility; both Lod and Ramle refuse to agree to annexation and the Emek Lod Regional Council objects to declaring the village an independent entity. According to the residents’ attorney, Kais Nasser, these delays are what led to another request that the High Court intervene.
Justices Esther Hayut, Zvi Zylbertal and Anat Baron, who on Monday demanded the state’s response, also ordered the Lod and Ramle city governments to address the state’s position once it is submitted, and to explain why they object to annexing the village.
According to Nasser, Dahmash residents were pleased by the justices’ instructions and hope the court will prevent any further delays.
“The court’s decision says that there’s been enough of the state evading a decision on the issue of Dahmash,” Nasser said. “The state must now supply clear and persuasive answers why it hasn’t regularized the village as an independent community and thus end the residents’ great suffering. The residents are trying for a decade to legalize the village but keep running into walls. It’s too bad that the state doesn’t pick up the gauntlet and turn Dahmash into a model for coexistence between Arabs and Jews.”

Jack Khoury

Haaretz Correspondent

read more: http://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/1.732137Schermata 2016 07 21 alle 22.42.33